Sunday, 1 November 2009
Sunderland 2 West Ham 2 - A Shameful Surrender
I left it overnight, fearful of what I might say if I blogged in the immediate aftermath of the game. I have watched some shocking performances in my 40 plus years as a West Ham fan but NONE have been worse than that second half at Sunderland yesterday. In truth, had Bent not been wearing a blindfold we would have lost that second forty five minutes 4 or 5 nil - against 10 men!
I don't really want to dwell too long on what happened, I was in a foul mood all yesterday evening and typing this is taking back into depression. Kovac was awful. Yes he played a very sweet pass to set Collison away for the first goal but, apart from that, his distribution and positional play were dire. He doesn't track runners, he doesn't close down players in possession, he doesn't put his body in the way of shots and he doesn't tackle without committing a foul. How is he an international footballer and why did we buy him? The referee did us a favour when he sent him off. It removed the illusion of a player protecting the back four and revealed what had been true all game, Kovac may have been occupying a space in body but he was not there in mind. Sunderland players drifted past him and only after they had gone by did Kovac react. He was terrible.
But Kovac wasn't alone. Where was Noble second half? In fact, where was the midfield? We were supposed to have the man advantage but Sunderland always had an extra man free it seemed to me. When we had the ball there was nobody to pass to; when Sunderland had the ball, there were free men all over the pitch.
At the back we were shocking. Time and again, Sunderland broke our "offside trap" because four players couldn't stand in line. Tomkins was the worst example but at times I wondered if Spector was actually on the pitch! And what was Upson doing about it? Nothing because Upson is not a captain. Neill would have been chewing on bollocks had he been there but Upson, as usual, was in his own zone, focused on his own game and offering no leadership on the pitch whatsoever from what I could see. Of course, a lot of the problem was the failure of Kovac and Noble to do their jobs in front of the back four and our failure to make use of our player advantage to retain the ball.
The first Sunderland goal will stay in my memory for ever. I had just had a rant about Kovac failing to read the game and, lo and behold, he failed to track a runner, reacted late, and sandwiched him from behind on the edge of the box. I think the ref booked him for gross incompetence rather than foul play. But what then followed was ludicrous. What did Green think he was doing? He set up the wall and then stood on the far post, leaving half the goal for Reid to score in as soon as he got the ball up and over the wall. Why wasn't there a man positioned on the near post, it was so obvious that that was where the ball was going, once Green had offered an open invitation to put it there and then positioned himself so that he couldn't possibly get there if Reid accepted the invite. Again, where was our captain? Why didn't Upson say, "Hang on, I could score this the way we are set up. Green, move closer to the middle of your goal or get a man on the line to protect that side of the goal!"
But ultimately, the players are not to blame. My question is, what did Zola say at half time? I know what he didn't do, he didn't sent on Diamanti for either Noble or Kovac to give an attacking impetus to the team at the start of the second half. He surely must have said, "Let's try to keep what we have" because, from the kick off, that's the way we played. Sunderland were hungrier for the ball, passed it better, were more positive, won every 50-50 challenge and,to be frank, ran rings around us despite being a player down. It was a disgraceful, shameful and humiliating surrender from ourselves.
What about the first half? We scored two excellent goals but we were never in control of the game, even when two goals ahead - I always felt that Sunderland were dictating the pace of the game. Collison's performance first 45 was superb, but second half? He was as culpable as the rest!
I don't want to dwell on it any longer. Joint bottom now and, on that showing, the table isn't lying. We are a mess.
Ratings: Green 5, Spector 4, Upson 6, Tomkins 4, Ilunga 5, Beharmi 6, Kovac 3, Noble 4, Collison 7, Cole 7, Franco 6
Posted by Hammersfan at 11:22